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Kyudo (弓道) (The "Way of the Bow") is the Japanese art of archery. It is a modern Japanese martial art (a gendai budo).

Japanese Name
Japanese(Kanji) 弓道
Kana spelling(Hiragana) きゅうどう
Modified Hepburn Kyudō
Kunrei-shiki Kyud
Nihon-shiki Kyudō

Kanjuro Shibata XX practicing Kyudo

In Japan, by most accounts, the number of female kyudo practitioners is at least equal to and probably greater than the number of male practitioners.


Purpose of Kyudo

In its most pure form, kyudo is practiced as an art and as a means of moral and spiritual development. Many archers practice kyudo as a sport, with marksmanship being paramount. However, the highest ideal of kyudo is "seisha seichu", "correct shooting is correct hitting". In kyudo the unique action of expansion (nobiai) that results in a natural release, is strived for. When the spirit and balance of the shooting is correct the result will be for the arrow to arrive in the target. To give oneself completely to the shooting is the spiritual goal. In this respect, many kyudo practitioners believe that competition, examination, and any opportunity that places the archer in this uncompromising situation is important, while other practitioners will avoid competitions or examinations of any kind.

Kyudo equipment

The yumi (Japanese bow) is exceptionally tall (standing over two meters), surpassing the height of the archer (kyudoka). Yumi are traditionally made of bamboo, wood and leather using techniques which have not changed for centuries, although some archers (particularly, those new to the art) may use synthetic (i.e. laminated wood coated with glassfiber or carbon fiber) yumi. Even advanced kyudoka may own non-bamboo yumi and ya due to the vulnerability of bamboo equipment to extreme climates.

Ya (arrow) shafts were traditionally made of bamboo, with either eagle or hawk feathers. Most ya shafts today are still made of bamboo (although some archers will use shafts made of aluminum or carbon fibers), and ya feathers are now obtained from non-endangered birds such as turkeys or swans. Every ya has a gender (male ya are called haya; female ya, otoya); being made from feathers from alternate sides of the bird, the haya spins clockwise upon release while the otoya spins counter-clockwise. Kyudo archers usually shoot two ya per round, with the haya being shot first.

The kyudo archer wears a glove on the right hand called a yugake. The yugake is typically made of deerskin with a hardened thumb containing a groove at the base used to pull the string (tsuru).

The kyudo archer will typically begin a practice session by shooting at a straw target (makiwara) at very close range (about seven feet, or the length of the archer's strung yumi when held horizontally from the centerline of his body). Because the target is so close and the shot most certainly will hit, the archer can concentrate on refining his technique rather than on worrying about where the arrow will go. After warming up, the archer may then move on to longer distances; shooting at a target called a mato. Mato sizes and shooting distances vary, but most matos typically measure thirty-six centimeters (or 12 sun, a traditional Japanese measurement equivalent to approximately 3.03cm) in diameter and are shot at from a distance of twenty-eight meters.

Kyudo technique

All kyudo archers shoot right-handed, so that all archers face the higher postion (kamiza) while shooting.

Unlike occidental archers (who draw the bow never further than the cheek bone), kyudo archers draw the bow so that the drawing hand ends up behind the ear. If done improperly, upon release the string may strike the archer's ear or side of the face.

Immediately after the shot is released, the bow will (for a practised archer) spin in the hand so that the string stops in front of the archer's outer forearm. This technique (which is strived for as it illustrates the archer's skill) is called yugaeri and is unique to oriental archery.

Kyudo technique is meticulously prescribed. The Zen Nihon Kyudo Renmei (ZNKR, All Japan Kyudo Federation), the main governing body of kyudo in Japan, have codified the hassetsu (or 'eight stages of shooting') in the Kyudo Kyohon (Kyudo Manual). The eight stages of shooting defined by the ZNKR are: ashibumi (placing the footing), dozukuri (forming the body), yugamae (readying the bow), uchiokoshi (raising the bow), hikiwake (drawing apart), kai (the full draw), hanare (the release), and zanshin (remaining body / mind, the remaining focus of physical and spiritual expansion after the release).

Kyudo rankings

Using a system typical of most modern martial arts, most Kyudo schools periodically sponsor tests, which, if the archer passes, results in the issuance of a ranking, or dan (for example, a black belt of a certain degree). At least one school, however, does not rank students, but only recognizes the achievement of instructor status using the older menkyo (license) system of koryu budo.

Major traditions

See also

External links

de:Kyūdō es:Kyudo fr:Kyūdō ja:弓道 pl:Kyudo ro:Kyudo fi:Kyudo sv:Kyudo pt:Kyudo


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